Barcode Scanners in Everyday Life
When the first barcoded item was sold in 1974, nobody could have predicted the change it would make to how we shop. That 10-pack of Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit chewing gum was the first of billions of easy, convenient transactions made every day.
From buying chewing gum at the supermarket to getting into a club, from the warehouse floor to hospitals, nearly everything needs a barcode to function these days. Far from being outdated technology, recent innovations like the wireless 2D barcode scanner and handheld barcode scanner with display have made them not only ubiquitous but absolutely necessary for our modern world. There are so many different barcode technologies to explore. But here we are going to look at the difference between a USB barcode reader and a wireless barcode scanner.
USB Barcode Scanner
The first few generations of barcode scanners had a wide variety of connectors, most of which have thankfully been assigned to the scrap heap of history. One device would only be compatible with others made by the same company. Or the type of connector might change so you had to replace all your scanners. It was frustrating and expensive.
Thankfully, the mass adoption of the Universal Serial Bus, or USB, got rid of a lot of the problems. With a USB connector, you can plug your scanner into nearly anything, and providing you have the right software, your scanner will work. The brilliant thing about a USB scanner is that you can run one from a laptop, a cash register, even from your phone. What is more, many types of USB barcode reader are powered by USB. So you don’t need to worry about batteries. Convenient, fast, secure, and cheap, USB technology makes barcode technology very convenient.
Wireless Barcode Scanner
Instead of using a USB connector, many of the latest scanners use a wireless connection to communicate with the server. Instead of being limited to a small area as you are with a wired connection, with wireless you can roam as far as the wireless signal will allow, which can be a long way. Most wireless scanners use wireless network connections, or WiFi. WiFi barcode scanners connect to the local network. WiFi barcode scanners allow whoever is using them to scan barcodes wherever the WiFi will stretch to. That is the limitation of a WiFi barcode scanner, sometimes WiFi doesn’t stretch far enough. Some use Bluetooth, which has the same problem.
If WiFi isn’t enough, you can try an LTE or mobile data connected scanner. For businesses that travel or can’t get good WiFi reception, or for individuals who need a scanner wherever they are, connecting to the mobile network gives them a lot of freedom. A handheld barcode scanner with a display used to be a heavy and cumbersome device. Now, even cheap wireless scanners are light enough to use comfortably for extended periods. Their batteries will last hours or days as well.
Wireless 2D barcode scanners are the next generation of barcode reader. Instead of reading a few lines next to each other, they are capable of reading and interpreting much more complex information. They are capable interpreting QR codes, which can include URLs, product information, and more.
What is the Difference?
In some cases, there is no difference. Many types of USB barcode reader have a wireless connection. But many types of USB barcode reader can connect wirelessly to the server. Generally, a handheld barcode scanner with display that is USB connected will be lighter than a wireless scanner. Without the need for a heavy battery and extra computer chips inside, they can be very lightweight. This is very helpful to employees who need to use them for extended periods.
As well as being lightweight, a USB scanner is usually more reliable. Wi-Fi networks can be temperamental and connection problems can hold up business, something no business person wants or can afford. With a direct wired connection, there is less to fail. Another advantage is that you don’t have to charge them. Waiting to scan something because the batteries need charging on your scanner is not something your customers are likely to do.
USB scanners used to be cheaper than wireless ones. But these days a wireless USB barcode scanner will only cost a little more than a wired USB device. There are considerable advantages to having both a USB and a wireless connection. If one mode fails, you can use the other. Charge the device easily, and when your employees need to. They can scan items wherever they are with a wireless USB barcode scanner.
Which is the Right Choice for You?
For small businesses who only need to scan items at the cash register, a wired connection is ideal. Batteries will not run out, it is lightweight and easy to use, and nobody is going to steal them easily. Losing a scanner could ruin business for the day, costing you a lot of money. When a business involves traveling or large areas, a wireless 2D barcode scanner will almost certainly be necessary. A wired connector would tie your employees to wherever they can plug it in. With WiFi barcode scanner, they are free to do business anywhere on the shop or warehouse floor.
Sometimes, employees only need to scan things occasionally. When this is the case, a (heavier) wireless scanner should work for them. They can keep them with them wherever they are and scan things when they need to. However, for employees who are scanning things all the time, weight and ergonomics are important concerns. Without batteries, the lighter USB barcode scanner can keep them comfortable and working effectively for longer.
Price is a necessary concern. Generally, the simpler the technology, the cheaper it is. A USB barcode reader will almost always be cheaper than a wireless device. However, taking quality into consideration is essential, especially with wireless technology. Paying a little extra for a wireless USB barcode scanner that has regular security updates from the manufacturer and good tech support can save you a lot of money in the long term.